5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2005
Walsh is an excellent writer, he can make your mouth water when he reviews cuisine in his magazine and newspaper articles. I thought this book was just a glimpse at some of his best writing, boy was I mistaken. Walsh has compiled articles composed of peculiar and obscure cuisine, and the travels he had to take getting there. Included in this collection are brains from Vietnam, cactus paddle margaritas, Thai Stinkfruit, Chilean picorrocco, and deep fried everything. But to give this book justice there are many selections of true wonderful (typical?) cuisine such as the blue crabs, Trinidadian curry, and the wonderful Creole food. My favorite selections are his search for true Jamaican coffee and Dinner at Darrington which portrays southern cooking at a prison.
The book is laid out in 5-6 page articles and profiles different ethnicities, countries, and esoteric cuisine. This book is great for a gourmand, foodie, but also for those who like learning about culture and people. Walsh highlights not only the foods but the cultivating, cooking, and traditions of this foods. For example stinkfruit is a delicacy to the Thai, sauerkraut to Austrians, spam to Hawaiins, and knishes to the Jewish yet these are probably not mainstays in your kitchen and probably not appealing to your senses.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in different foods and likes culinary writing. Walsh is a true culinary thrill seeker and it is definately exciting to read this collection.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Like Calvin Trillin, Texas food writer Robb Walsh ("Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook," "The Tex-Mex Cookbook") will go anywhere in pursuit of the perfect regional dish. Partial to spice and barbecue he's been to the pepper farms of the Caribbean seeking the best hot sauce and to Monterrey, Mexico, for the consummate cabrito (barbecued goat). He's eaten stinkfruit (durian - redolent of rotten eggs) in Thailand, musing on other cultural affinities for smelly delicacies. He's traced specialties to farms, factories and fishing boats. He's been entertained by the finest of convict cooks and French chefs.
This compilation of humorous, informative pieces comes mostly from the "Houston Chronicle," and two magazines, "American Way," and "Natural History." Walsh explores food's chemistry (Hawaii's love affair with Spam; seaweed's association with McDonalds, or Martinis) and culture (stuffed cabbage lovers may not have even that in common; one man's greasy spoon is another's comfort zone), and shares the adventure of tracking to the source, be it the world's best coffee beans, sitting unsaleable in a Jamaican warehouse, or cagey French truffle hunters, or neighborhood restaurants from Houston to New York and beyond.
Witty, eclectic, and opinionated, Walsh is ready to try anything so you won't have to.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
Walsh's collection of columns and the smattering of recipes is a quick and easy read that takes us around the world (sort of) and introduces some interesting (and some not so) food items and histories.
While some of the pieces feel dated (because they are) and the reader can distinctly feel that they are newspaper/magazine articles without the pictures (as they also are), I still found the book enjoyable and interesting. It's a book you can start and stop as you like, with enough anecdotes to impress your foodie friends--like which peppers are the hottest and where the best coffee comes from. Of course, it's all subjective.
The recipes are interesting, if not the most useful I've ever seen. Definitely don't base your buying decision on that inclusion.
I'll put it this way: after reading this book, if I see Robb Walsh in a magazine, I'll be sure to read the article.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Walsh goes from one epicurean extreme to another, from stinky durian to sublime Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. He must have been one of those kids who would eat a bug if you dared him to.
These essays are entertaining and informative (the crash-course on hot peppers, for example). Lots of fun, but Walsh obviously enjoys many dishes some of us are just not ready for (goat soup).
Too bad this isn't an audio book. I heard Walsh being interviewed on NPR and he was great. If they do issue an audio version, he should definitely be the narrator.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Among other things, this book demonstrates that chef / author Tony Bourdain's persona as literary tourist to some truly bizarre culinary experiences reported in the book and TV show `A Cooks Tour' is not only not entirely original, but not necessarily the best of the genre. Culinary `Thrill Seeker' and Journalist Robb Walsh has been there and done that, hitting many sites and smells and tastes chef Bourdain has not yet experienced.
To be fair to Tony, Bourdain and Walsh are not doing exactly the same thing. Walsh's reporting lies somewhere between the `New Yorker' detached style of Calvin Trillin who is most interested in placing the reader in the place and time being reported and the gonzo participatory journalism of Bourdain which owe's a lot more of its style to Hunter Thompson than it does to the `New Yorker' or even to the `good feeling' reporting style of Food Network travelogues.
Witness a comparison between Bourdain's reporting on a visit to Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, arguably the best restaurant in this country with Walsh's reporting on a visit to `The Best Restaurant in the World', the restaurant of Ferdy Girardet in Switzerland. Walsh's piece is a quiet recitation of his solo meal eaten under the guidance of chef Girardet, followed by observations of the chef and a brief interview. All of this focuses on Girardet's vision of a meal at his restaurant being not unlike a visit to a museum where guests simply experience the artist's work without being given any real opportunity to tailor the experience to their own tastes. Bourdain's chapter is like a chronicle of planning for and executing the invasion of Normandy. Bourdain assumes the role of the timid supplicant at the alter of the renowned French Laundry, padding his request for an audience with a supporting cast of culinary stars such as Eric Rippert, Scott Bryan, and Michael Ruhlman, a literary collaborator with both Rippert and Keller. Keller never makes an appearance in the piece, leaving his food to speak to the communicants.
Both Bourdain and Walsh are entertaining, and both represent the left wing of culinary journalism to James Villas' right wing and Calvin Trillin's centrist position. I confess Bourdain evokes more chuckles, but Walsh, in a very cramped format, may bring more information per page to his readers.
Almost all of Robb Walsh's pieces in this book are reprinted columns and articles from newspapers and fairly light journals that can only support relatively short pieces of writing. Many of the articles remind me of Jeff Goldblum's line in `The Big Chill' where he describes his writing for `People' magazine as being articles which the average reader can complete during a session in the crapper.
All of this talk about `like him' and `not like him' is simply done to convey to you, dear reader, the fact that while Walsh may not be as well known as Bourdain or Trillin or Villas or John Thorne, he is equally as entertaining and equally as informative as all of these other culinary literati, but in his own special way.
Many of his articles cover familiar ground, such as the article on the search for Perigord truffles, but like Mort Rosenblum, another talented culinary journalist, he always seems to unearth interesting angles on his subject. One surprise on the truffle front, for example, is that some agronomists have actually been successful in creating an environment for truffles to grow in the United States.
Another very familiar (to me) subject is Alsatian Choucroute, the French term for Sauerkraut, which Walsh explores in a largely unsuccessful search for the best sauerkraut in Alsace and his final success at a small restaurant, `Le Cerf' in a little town outside Strasbourg. Walsh also covers many unfamiliar subjects such as cabrito, a method for cooking goat in Mexico and durian, a Southeast Asian fruit with the olfactory impact of overripe Limburger cheese topped with a spoiled egg.
The very best thing I can say about Walsh's writing is that each of his articles leaves me wanting more information. That may also be the worst thing I can say about them as well, as the articles are typically so short, they just don't seem to fill you up. But, an amuse bouche is no less delicious for being small.
Very highly recommended standing beside other leading culinary journalists.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2003
Years ago, when I was starting out as a reporter, I figured that politics and business were the only things that really mattered. But then Robb Walsh came along. He and I both wrote for the Austin Chronicle. His stories got more attention and more letters than practically anything in the whole paper.
Maybe getting older has made me wiser. Or maybe it's just that after reading Robb's stories, I've come to really appreciate food and good food writing. Or perhaps, I've finally come to realize that Will Rogers was right when he wrote "We only have one or two wars in a lifetime. But we have three meals a day. When you have helped raise the standard of cooking then you would have raised the only thing in the world that matters."
Reading Robb's BBQ book (Legends of Texas BBQ) finally got me to smoke a brisket (albeit on a propane grill).
This book is a wide ranging collection of writing on foods -- many of which I'd never put in my mouth. But Robb's easy writing style and graceful observations always make me hungry for more.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2003
If you are an adventurous eater, you will love this book. If you are not an adventurous eater, perhaps you will be after reading Robb Walsh's, "Are You Really Going To Eat That? Reflections of a Culinary Thrill Seeker". This book is literally all over the map, and that's a good thing.
Robb takes us from the fiery hot sauces of Jamaica, to the stinky fruit of Thailand called durian, to down-home fried chicken shacks, to barbecued crabs from The Gulf of Mexico. Walsh does not 'review' a restaurant as much as he describes his experience wherever he goes, and it's all with the entertaining (not to mention educational) flair and knowledge of food that makes Robb one of the best food writers in the country.
As with his previous book, "Legends of Texas Barbecue, you will read it more than once, and you will be hungry when you finish it!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2004
This fun collection of essays, just like food ought to be, are served in small portions that satisfy but leave you hungry for more. Each story has info-nutritional value marinated in over 30 years of experience as a culinary journalist, and are smothered in rich, often spicy storytelling sauce. Robb Walshs' book "Are You Really Going To Eat That" reminds us that food isn't just a life sustaining resource, but an art that many spend their entire lives devoted to, obsessing over, and perfecting (often by their own proud admission) "in some small way".
In forty stories Robb marches up 4,200 feet to a secluded notch of Jamaica's Blue Mountains to score "the ultimate cup of coffee", visits Chanthaburi Thailand to gag over Durian fruit - a highly desirable fruit in Southeast Asia which is an extremely odorous (smells like rotten eggs so bad that some hotels there have "no durian" policies). Or going to prison for dinner, where a legendary black southern prison cook (and 10 time convict) prepares him a chicken fried hamburger, gravy smothered french fries, and broccoli in cheese sauce.
Each colorful story makes me hungry (even when the culinary subject is more "adventure" than pleasure), and reinforces a commitment in me to perhaps the most important aspect in our relationship to food....expirimentation. I doubt I'll ever have half the passion this man does for food; it's more than that to him, it's like a language he uses to translate the meaning of various cultures and their people, who often give more spice to their creation than the ingredients do.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that eats for anything more than pure survival.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2004
Robb Walsh has always had a way of making food into an adventure. He came to visit me several years ago when we lived in the Northeast to get out of another Texas Summer and visit me and my family. I had recently started fly fishing and felt that I was getting the hang of it pretty well until Robb's visit. After talking about it (perhaps too much) Robb said "Fine. Catch dinner." While we still argue about the outcome, it is the kind of story that Robb tends to inspire...We have run all over New England together tasting ice cream, lobster and even fresh trout or a great bottle of Italian wine.That is why this book is my favorite...It really is about the "Indiana Jones..." of the food world. If you get a chance to meet Robb or e-mail him, ask him about food stories and Mother's Day...
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2004
The other reviews describe the book's contents well. The stories are entertaining and educational, but Walsh's writing style struck me as not-quite-ready-for-prime-time. Many stories ended abruptly (perhaps a lousy editing job?) and the prose seemed like something out of a college-level creative writing class.
I like Jeffrey Steingarten's books better...a matter of personal taste.
Still, I give this 3 stars because the stories are excellent-- it's the storytelling that needs work.